Epsilon Omega Chapter of AKA School Supplies Efforts Continue

Back-To-School is generally a time when school supplies are collected and ultimately distributed during community fairs and other events. However, the need for backpacks, notebooks, pens and other supplies continues well after the school year has started.

The Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority has continued its efforts to meet this year-round need by continuing to collect and distribute school supplies. The effort is part of the AKA One Million Backpacks Project, a component of the Educational Enrichment: Target I of the 2014-18 Launching New Dimensions of ServiceSM International Program.

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The project focuses on the sorority’s ability to support education with resources in the form of backpacks loaded with school supplies for students.

“For 95 years, Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has served the Greater Baltimore Community and has lived out our mission of ‘Service to All Mankind,’” said Tonja Ringgold, Epsilon Omega Chapter President.

In August, the Epsilon Omega Foundation, Inc. prepared and distributed over 800 backpacks filled with school supplies to area students and their families as part of the Back-to-School Community Fair held at the Ivy Family Support Center at 3515 Dolfield Avenue in Baltimore.

The Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, March Funeral Homes and ShopRite Stores donated over 45,000 rulers, glue sticks, folders, loose leaf paper, and other school supplies to ensure that students were “Packed, Polished, and Prepared” for the start of school.

This was the third year of the event, which also included lunch and games. Epsilon Omega Chapter and Foundation members along with volunteers distributed the supplies to students and their families. Co-chaired by Sharon Smith, Community Fair attendees also received information from various City agencies and non-profit community resources such as Enoch Pratt Free Library.

The Epsilon Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Education Enrichment program is chaired by Frances Parks and co-chaired by Jean Owens. The Backpack Project is chaired by Claudette Edgerton-Swain who says the goal is to ensure that students are always “Packed, Polished, and Prepared” for school.

“We understood as parents, as well as educators how difficult it was to purchase supplies for families with multiple children,” she said. “Our main concern was for our students to be equipped and to be academically prepared for a successful school year. We are still receiving calls at the Ivy Center requesting back packs, so our work continues.”

She also noted the distribution of library cards.

“We were very excited that Enoch Pratt Library attended the event as part of their early literacy program,” said the retired Baltimore City Public School teacher. “Several children received their first library card. It’s important to put books in the hands of children at an early age.”

Epsilon Omega Chapter is the first graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., in the North Atlantic

Region. The effort is among the many aimed at helping the community and beyond.

Last year, the group participated in “The Sewing Circle,” which creates dresses from pillowcases in support of Little Dresses for Africa. They took their creations to the AKA’s 67th Boule held in Atlanta, Georgia, July 9 -16, 2016.

“We took an oath, and are mandated to provide service to all mankind,” said Egerton-Swain.

For more information, or to make a donation to the AKA One Million Backpacks Project, email Egerton-Swain at: akaeo1921@gmail.com.

NAACP Board elects new president & CEO

— The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), America’s largest and original legacy civil rights organization, has unanimously elected Derrick Johnson president & CEO. Johnson, 49, has served as interim president and CEO since July of this year.

A Detroit native now residing in Jackson, Mississippi, Johnson, who was also elected vice-chairman of the Board of Directors in February of this year, is a longtime member, leader and a respected veteran activist who will be tasked with guiding the NAACP through a period of tremendous challenge and opportunity at a key point in its 108-year history. The NAACP has undergone transitions in leadership this year as it re-envisions itself to take on a tumultuous and contentious social and political climate. He will have a three-year term.

“In his time serving as our interim president and CEO, Derrick has proven himself as the strong, decisive leader we need to guide us through both our internal transition, as well as a crucial moment in our nation’s history. With new threats to communities of color emerging daily and attacks on our democracy, the NAACP must be more steadfast than ever before, and Derrick has the vision, mobility and courage to help us meet that demand,” said Leon Russell, Board Chairman of the NAACP. “As both a longtime member of the NAACP, and a veteran activist in his own right— having worked on the ground to advocate for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, along with championing countless other issues— Derrick also intimately understands the strengths of the Association, our challenges and the many obstacles facing black Americans of all generations today. I look forward to continuing to work with him in this new role.”

Johnson has an extensive history and career legacy of dedicated civil rights activism. He formerly served as state president of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, where he successfully spearheaded campaigns for voting rights, worker’s rights and equitable education, and he additionally is the founder and executive director of One Voice, Inc., a Jackson-based non-profit organization conceived in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to enhance the quality of life for African Americans through civic engagement training and initiatives.

Additionally, as a past regional organizer with Southern Echo, Inc., another local non-profit organization, Mr. Johnson provided legal, technical and training support to communities spanning the south. He was appointed to the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission by the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, owing to his years of committed service to the people of the state.

The Unique Art of Larry ‘Poncho’ Brown, a Baltimore Legend

Larry “Poncho” Brown has many accolades that he earned with the stroke of a paintbrush.

A Baltimore native, Brown once earned the distinction of being among the youngest inductees at Carver Vocational Technical High School Hall of Fame, and among the many awards he has received are a 2008 Black Music & Art Award and the 2000 Artist of the Year Award presented by the African-American Visual Art Association.

Larry “Poncho” Brown

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Larry “Poncho” Brown

A world leader in contemporary African-American art who started his first business at 17 as a sign writer, Brown has been selected as a speaker for PNC Bank’s artist legal and financial workshop, “Mind Your Business,” scheduled for 9:30 a.m.- 3:30p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Motor House in Baltimore.

He earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art and his work, which includes portraits of singer Anita Baker, the late comedian and activist Dick Gregory, and comedian Bill Cosby, has been published nationally in Upscale, Ebony, Essence and Jet Magazines.

Admirers often cite rhythm, movement and unity, as favorite elements of his work, according to his biography. He primarily works in acrylic, although Brown uses a variety of mediums and styles to express his interests in Afrocentric themes, Ancient Egyptology and dance— it’s a style that combines past and present art to create a sense of realism, mysticism, and beauty, which gives his art universal appeal.

“I’m a second-generation artist of a teenaged parent who gave up his dream of doing art because when he had me he was 16 or 17-years-old,” Brown said about his late father.

“Needless to say, there was no outlet for him, so he ventured into printing (eventually becoming a successful school teacher) and, naturally, a son imitates his father and I think I had the seriousness about art that he wished he had.”

As a child, Brown says he always wished that he had a super power. “As an adult,” he said, “I realized it was art.”

He says his dad chose the nickname “Poncho” because he was a fan of the 1960s show, “Cisco Kid,” whose sidekick’s name was Poncho.

“I used Poncho to separate from him because you had two artists in the same house,” Brown said.

The 1970s television show, “Good Times,” proved a turning point for African-American artists because of the famous painting featured in the show’s opening and closing, Brown said.

Later, though, he says the “Cosby Show” sparked the revolution of the African-American artist and Cosby himself would later be counted as a customer and a friend of his. But it was comedian and activist Dick Gregory who provided his first major break.

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“Dick Gregory was the first person to give me a break. He had me to do the first ad campaign for his Bahamian diet and the first celebrity to endorse my work after I switched from sign painting to illustration,” Brown said. “He called me to do commercial work for him, and things moved quickly after.”

After traveling to New York for a meeting with potential buyers, Brown says things really began to change for the better when he noticed a major art show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.

“I was on my way back to Baltimore and frustrated. Then I’m on the bus passing the Javits Center and see limos with people carrying canvases,” he said.

Brown asked the bus driver to allow him to exit and he went to investigate. The following year he brought his work there and began selling it by the truckload.

“I pretended that I was working for someone else because in the art world, they don’t like self-promotion,” he said, noting that his ruse paid off.

His work has been featured in the homes of Cosby, Gregory, and Baker among others and also on television shows like “Soul Food,” “The Wire,” “A Different World,” and “In the House.”

In 1999, Brown’s art was featured in the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History Textile Series No. 2 book, titled, “Wrapped in Pride.”

“My creations are a reflection of my personal values and pay homage to ongoing themes of unity, family, and spirituality,” Brown said.

The artist also founded “Raising the Arts” which has created dozens of images to assist nonprofit and African-American organizations with artistic documentation and fundraising opportunities.

“The African American art realm has been pressing onward because of the positive images that have become a narrative of our perseverance,” he said.

For more information about Brown’s work, visit http://theartofponcho.com.

AACPS Continues to Expand Offerings for Students Thanks to Robot Sponsorship by BGE

— Students who can’t attend class due to illness or injury can still keep up on material, but they often lose the feel of the classroom and contact with their classmates as they do so.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ efforts to bridge that divide got another boost today with the sponsorship of a robot by BGE that will allow students to attend class virtually while they recover. The robot, operated from a home computer, uses video conferencing technology to allow a student to travel through the hallways, sit at the lunch table with friends, participate in group assignments, and ask questions to teachers in real time. BGE’s sponsorship, facilitated through AACPS’ 21st Century Education Foundation, brings to 13 the total number of robots available to students across the school system. Four of those have been purchased through donations like the one being made by BGE.

“At BGE, one of our primary educational focus areas is innovative technology education and this distance learning robot affords remote students the opportunity to remain connected to their classmates,” said Valencia McClure, vice president of governmental and external affairs and corporate relations for BGE. “We are certainly pleased to be able to foster those connections through our partnership with Anne Arundel County Public Schools and the sponsorship of this robot.”

Dr. Arlotto and BGE officials got a firsthand look at the robot during a visit to Meade High School. The robot is developed by Double Robotics, which teams with AACPS’ Office of Instructional Technology to train parents, students, teachers, and administrators to use the devices.

“Our quest to Elevate All Students and Eliminate All Gaps is only possible through initiatives such as these,” Superintendent George Arlotto said. “We are indebted to BGE for helping us to expand the avenues for all of our students to succeed.”

A bright light in the Black Press dims: Bernal Smith dies at 45

The National Newspaper Publishers Association has lost one of our own this week.

Bernal E. Smith II, president and publisher of the Tri-State Defender and a well-known civic leader in Memphis, Tennessee, died Sunday, October 22, 2017. He was 45.

The newspaper, among the longest running African-American newspapers in the country and among the 211 black-owned publications in the United States noted on its website that Smith was with his family when he was found on Sunday.

“The New Tri-State Defender and its management board is devastated. We learned that Mr. Smith had passed,” associate publisher Karanja Ajanaku said in a statement along with Calvin Anderson, the president of Best Media Properties, the Defender’s parent company.

Smith’s death, caught many of his colleagues off-guard, all of whom expressed shock and sympathy for his family.

“I am personally saddened by the death of our comrade and publisher Bernal Smith,” said Dorothy Leavell, the publisher of the Crusader newspapers in Chicago and the national chairman of the NNPA. “He was just elected vice chairman in June and we were looking forward to working closely with him to find solutions to our beloved Black Press.”

Smith was a serious and dedicated member of the fourth estate, Leavell added. “We shall miss him so much,” she said.

The entire NNPA family of African-American publishers across the nation deeply mourn the passing of Smith, added Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, the president and CEO of the NNPA.

“As publisher of the New Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Smith represented the journalistic genius of a freedom-fighting publisher who was dedicated to the empowerment of Black America,” Chavis said. “Long live the spirit of Bernal Smith!”

Joy Bramble, publisher of the Baltimore Times, says she was simply shocked by the news of Smith’s death. “I was just working with him on some things, I just can’t believe it,” Bramble said.

Rosetta Perry, the publisher of the Tennessee Tribune, called Smith a true friend and a bright light.

“He was a person that when I met him, we just clicked and I was comfortable with him, like I had known him my whole life, and I didn’t have to pretend to be anyone or anything,” Perry said. “That voice that we loved to hear at our meetings and training sessions is now still. Bernal’s place at the Board of Directors meeting will now be vacant but he will live forever in our hearts.”

Because of Smith’s vision and talents, Karen Carter Richards says she asked him to run for 2nd vice chair of the NNPA this year.

Richards, publisher of the Houston Forward Times, said she wasn’t surprised when he won election to the post because of his infectious personality and great abilities.

“I am devastated, Bernal was my friend and he was a visionary who was smart, energetic, kind and definitely the future of NNPA,” Richards said. “His innovative ideas made us click. At the request of Bernal, I flew to Memphis last year to attend his Best in Black Awards show. He wanted me to recreate the show in Houston and we were going to partner and bring his great awards show to the city of Houston.”

Broadcast executive and Wave newspaper Publisher Pluria Marshall said Smith was one of NNPA’s up and coming publishers.

“He was about business. He added value when he spoke on issues relating to NNPA and his recent election to the executive team was a clear sign of his rising star,” Marshall said. “He will be sorely missed.”

Hiram Jackson of Real Times Media, who sold Smith the New Tri-State

Defender, called Smith’s passing a sad day for the future of the Black Press.

“Bernal Smith represented the future of our industry and he was one of the most innovative publishes I knew and I recognized his gifts immediately,” Jackson said.

“I will miss his friendship and his contagious enthusiasm about black people.”

A graduate of Rhodes College who also earned a master’s of business administration from Union University, Smith fronted a local group that purchased the Tri-State Defender from Real Times Media in 2013.

Smith mentored inner-city youth and once served as president of the 100 Black Men of Memphis.

“Bernal Smith has been an integral force in the city of Memphis as the publisher of the Tri-State Defender where he made issues of economic parity, social justice and the support and encouragement of the black community his primary concerns,” Denise Rolark Barnes and D. Kevin McNeir, the publisher and the editor of the Washington Informer, said in a joint statement. “Even more, as one of the younger publishers of the NNPA, his enthusiasm and dedication were essential to our overall growth and continued existence.

“His death leaves a void that will be difficult, if not impossible to fill. But his spirit will live on as will our memories of him— a proud, talented black man who loved his people and his community and who diligently gave his all each and every day on behalf of the Black Press.”

Forever Stamp honoring National Museum of African American History and Culture on sale

— The Celebrating African American History and Culture Forever stamp is now available for sale. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is located at 1400 Constitution Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C.

Black history is inseparable from American history, and the black experience represents a profound and unique strand of the American story. This stamp issuance recognizes the richness of that experience by celebrating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The stamp art is based on a photograph of the museum showing a view of the northwest corner of the building. Text in the upper-left corner of the stamp reads “National Museum of African American History and Culture.”

Opened on September 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is the 19th Smithsonian museum and the only national museum devoted exclusively to African American life, art, history and culture. The museum’s collections, which include art, artifacts, photographs, films, documents, data, books, manuscripts and audio recordings, represent all regions of the United States and acknowledge the cultural links of African Americans to the black experience around the world as well. The museum provides opportunities for the public to explore and enjoy African American history while demonstrating the centrality of that history to our nation’s past, present and future.

Successful entrepreneur gives back to domestic violence survivors

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an ideal time to raise awareness about domestic violence but Owings Mills, Maryland resident, Cindy Tawiah is committed to helping women and young girls who have been touched by this issue anytime of year.

Tawiah, who originally hails from Ghana, West Africa, is the founder of the Diva By Cindy hair care line, which consists of 13 items ranging from popular Super Gro Hair Dress to a leave-in hair detangler. Tawiah’s alcohol-free products can also be used by women who have suffered from alopecia; hair loss due to blood pressure medication; thyroid issues; and chemotherapy cancer treatment.

The former Registered Nurse who once worked at Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore determined that nursing was not her passion. However, she discovered that running a business, inspiring and empowering women is her calling.

Tawiah ultimately became a beauty salon owner and is the author of “Metamorphosis: Finding Your Passion, Finding Your Purpose, Finding U,” in which she chronicled her own journey from passion to purpose, and overcoming abuse, while making a difference in the lives of domestic violence victims through the Diva Project.

“In 2005, we began bringing in homeless women and victims of domestic violence for days of beauty and healing where they get full service (hair, nails, make up) and motivational presentations, and [they participate in a] a balloon release to let go of their pain and trauma and release hopes and dreams,” Tawiah said. “We call the shelters and offer the services to their ladies. Sunshine Promise is a 501(c)(3) that is our nonprofit for the Diva Project.”

A percentage of the proceeds from items sold from Tawiah’s product line enables her to offer free beauty days, which has even includes dresses.

The successful entrepreneur has been selling Diva By Cindy products at a kiosk in BWI (Baltimore-Washington International Airport) since July of 2017.

“I am ecstatic about our partnership at BWI. It allows us to connect with people and touch more lives,” Tawiah said, while explaining the meaning of the Diva acronym. “Diva (by Cindy) is for a woman who wants beauty excellence and elegance. It’s Divine, Inspired, Virtuous, and Anointed. It’s every woman’s journey when she overcomes adversity.”

The impact of Tawiah’s work is recognizable by the metamorphosis of domestic violence survivors like Flora Carter. She met Tawiah in 2006 when she participated in the self-esteem building Diva Project. Carter was staying with her daughter, after enduring her own domestic violence experience in Prince George’s County. Her goal was getting out of her situation alive and reaching out to obtain help made a positive difference in her life. Carter also mentioned that domestic violence entails tearing someone down and Tawiah is committed to building women back up.

“She (Tawiah) is encouraging because a lot of women and men don’t see people who’ve made it through and won’t get the help that they need, so she is a great encourager, but the main thing is to realize that you are a human being, said Carter. “You do need to be treated nice. You can have your nails done. You can be a diva. It makes a positive difference because you’ve lost faith in yourself. You’ve lost faith in everything, when somebody just really tries to strip you, and Cindy helped build the mind, the body as well as the soul. ”

Carter, who is now divorced and doing well, encourages other women to speak up about domestic violence. She says that many women who experience domestic violence don’t receive any medical help from trained domestic violence advocates, within the first 24 hours of experiencing it. They often leave home without the basic necessities, such as grooming supplies and clothing. Carter expressed gratitude for Tawiah’s willingness to talk to domestic violence survivors, while letting them know that she achieved success. She reminds them that the unfortunate experience was not their fault.

“That was the main thing that really got us over— realizing that we cannot be responsible for another person’s actions,” Carter said. “By her (Tawiah) giving a contribution through [the sale of] her products for domestic violence, that helps somebody else have a night in the shelter, or some food, or some of the stuff that they need to survive.”

To learn more about the Diva Project, Tawiah and her endeavors, visit: www.thedivaproject.org and www.divabycindy.com.

Iris Leigh Barnes appointed to Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture

— Governor Larry Hogan has appointed Iris Leigh Barnes of Havre de Grace to the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture. She was sworn in as a commissioner for a four-year term on Friday, October 20, 2017.

The Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture is committed to discovering, documenting, preserving, collecting and promoting Maryland’s African American heritage. The Commission also provides technical assistance to institutions and groups with similar objectives.

The goal of the commission— part of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives— is to educate residents and visitors about the significance and impact of the African American experience in Maryland.

“It is an honor and a pleasure to work with the historical and cultural institutions in Maryland to help them advance their missions to preserve the rich history of our state,” Barnes said. “Much of what happened in Maryland, and particularly in Harford County, reverberated across the country and had an impact on regional and national events.

“African American history provides incredible stories that illustrate the tenacity and power of the human spirit, and that history is important for everyone to know in order to truly understand our country and its culture. That’s what makes this work on the commission important, and I am so honored to be a part of it.”

Barnes is the executive director of Hosanna School Museum in Darlington, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Hosanna School Museum is a restored Freedmen’s Bureau School, the first public school for African Americans in Harford County.

She is also the curator of the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum in Baltimore, owned by Morgan State University. The museum tells the story of many Marylanders including Thurgood Marshall, Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Margaret Carey and their work to eliminate racial inequality.

Barnes is the recipient of several national and local awards including being named an inaugural Interpretation Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Association of Interpreters; a two-time Diversity Fellow for the National Trust for Historical Preservation; and a Wing Research Fellow at the Maryland Historical Society.

In addition, she was a lead member of the Hays-Heighe House and Hosanna School Museum teams that sponsored the “Faces of Freedom: The Upper Chesapeake, Maryland, and Beyond” initiative, which was awarded a Maryland Preservation Award by the Maryland Historical Trust.

Library of Congress Announces Librarians-in-Residence Pilot Program

— The Library of Congress is launching a Librarians-in-Residence pilot program to offer early career librarians the opportunity to develop their expertise and contribute to building, stewarding and sharing the institution’s vast collections. The application period is November 1 to November 30, 2017.

The Library will select up to four applicants for a six-month residency beginning in June 2018. The program is open to students who will complete their master’s degrees in an American Library Association-accredited library/information science program no later than June 2018 or who completed such a degree no earlier than December 2016.

“I am so excited to invite early career librarians to bring their intellectual engagement, technological prowess

and theoretical concepts of library and information science to bear on practical challenges here at the world’s largest library,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “The Library of Congress will benefit from their energy and creative thinking, and they will benefit from the hands-on experience of working with the scale and variety of the national collections, side-by-side with top innovators on the Library’s staff.”

The program gives early career librarians the opportunity to receive on-the-job training and undertake assignments that contribute to the ongoing mission and work of the Library of Congress in at least one of the following tracks: Acquisitions and collection development; Cataloging and metadata; Collection preservation; Reference and instruction; and Systems and standards. The program will offer compensation at the GS-9 pay level.

For more information, visit: loc.gov/librarians.

Trick-or-Treat for a New Kind of Thrill

— Family Features) For most kids, Halloween is all about costumes and candy, but it can also be a chance to demonstrate how helping others brings its own set of rewards.

This October, children, families and schools across the country will join in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, a month-long celebration of the power and impact of kids helping kids. Throughout the month, kids, parents and teachers can add purpose to their Halloween activities by collecting donations in support of vulnerable children.

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF encourages children to be “scary good” this Halloween and help their peers around the world. Equipped with iconic orange collection boxes, kids can raise funds that add up to lifesaving change: $8 can buy a kit to give one family clean water to drink; $15 can buy a box of five mosquito nets to protect kids from deadly malaria; and $55 can buy one box of therapeutic food treatment to save a child from severe acute malnutrition.

Sharing the caring

In addition, a series of partners and supporters are also making it easy to help.

This year, HSNi Cares, as a national partner, will continue to raise funds and awareness to support UNICEF through all of its brands: Ballard Designs, Frontgate, Garnet Hill, Grandin Road, HSN and Improvements. Throughout September, customers will be able make a donation to the children’s humanitarian organization online or over the phone at all brands.

Key Club International will participate by raising funds for The Eliminate Project, which seeks to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, a deadly disease that claims the lives of thousands of babies and mothers each year. Key Club International, a student-led service leadership program of Kiwanis International, is the oldest and largest service program for high school students. For more information, visit TheEliminateProject.org or KeyClub.org.

American Airlines will support the campaign through UNICEF’s Change for Good program, which converts customers’ donations of foreign and domestic currency into lifesaving services for children. From Oct.16-31, American Airlines flight attendant volunteers will make Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF-themed announcements and collect donations from customers on select international flights.

Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, will team up with Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its best-selling children’s book series “Goosebumps.” Popular character Slappy and his monstrous friends will be featured on the collection boxes as well as trickortreatforunicef.org.

Make it social

Families are invited to share their Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF story on social media with the hashtag #ScaryGood. Parents and teachers who participated when they were children are also invited to share their experience with the hashtag #TBTOT4UNICEF.

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF – the original kids helping kids campaign – has raised nearly $177 million since 1950 to help UNICEF provide children around the world with lifesaving nutrition, water, vaccines and more. For more information, visit trickortreatforunicef.org.